Re: the economics of transition to nanotech

From: Jeff Davis (
Date: Mon Jan 10 2000 - 04:31:52 MST


The subject line should more rightly be phrased "the economics of
transition to advanced automation tech". Humans want stuff.
Notwithstanding the extropian woody for molecular precision, to the tired,
huddled masses it is generally a non-issue. The exception being medical
technology, where, because living cells are so small, molecular-scale
miniaturization is crucial to achieve functionality. Having gotten that
off my chest let's move on to economics.

Costs, profits, investments, stock, assets, competition, competitive
advantage, productivity, labor, capital, short-term gains, long-term gains,
technological evolution. Like that there.

Within the current socio-economic context--which is the context of the
question--if someone demonstrates a lower-cost means of producing
something--orange juice, automobiles, waterfront property, combustible
substances suitable for fuel, glow-in-the-dark sex toys--investors will
appear, money in hand. Their intent will be to close their eyes--visions
of sugarplums dancing-- and then open them again, magically to witness
their stack of green having manifested obedience to the biblical command to
be fruitful and multiply.

So listen my children to the story of Santa Claws and the Execution of
Nanoninja Capitalism.

Once upon a time, in the far away land of TrulyFreeEnterprise, some new
companies came into being. These were: Minit-Maid, makers of virgin-fresh
sort-of-fruit juices, and other nutritional substances; CondoMaximum,
makers of acreage-to-order (up to 70% of the earth's surface; off-planet:
"The Sky's the Limit"); Generic Motors, makers of all manner of powered
conveyances for use above, below, across, and through, land, sea, air, and
interstellar space; UberStandard Earl, makers of go juice in bulk--liquids,
gases, and uber-standard plasmas; and Joy to the World the Lord is Cum,
makers of "Satisfaction: GUARANTEED!"

This consortium possessed a then-in-development-soon-to-be-perfected
technology capable of producing all manner of stuff, in vast quantity, for
next to nothing. I'll spare you the technical details, but suffice it to
say that production is accomplished by the use of robot-elves of all sizes
whose capacity for production and reproduction shatters the self-esteem of
rabbits and bacteria alike.

At the board of directors meeting the discussion of the business plan went
something like this:

Poobah in charge of getting investment capital: "We'll need some cash, of
course, to get rolling, but since our projections project total dominance
of the world economy, everybody wants in. So start-up capitol is no
problem. Favorable terms is a non-issue. (Doing a cheesy Alphonso Bedoya
accent) 'I don't got to cho you no steenking favorable terms!' People are
out there literally throwing money at us, begging us not to squash them
like a bunch of bugs. Sexual servitude and other forms of social
sycophancy seem like viable options."

Poobah in charge of maintaining a sense of proportion: "Whoa there, babe!
Keep your Johnson under control! We're in this to make a buck. Not to
destroy the fabric of human life as we know it."

Poobah of tutti poobahs: "Yes, gentlefolk, our picomasop is right. We
don't want to hurt anyone. We want to be careful. We want everyone to be
happy. Not only because it's the right thing to do, but because it does us
no good to take over the galaxy if, in the process, we turn it into a
stinking hellhole. Now you all know me. I'm no shy, deferential kind of
guy. I'm no softy. When it comes to competitive ruthlessness, to
mercilessly--yet with a certain joie de crim--grinding the life out of a
would-be adversary, I don't hesitate. That's why, down in the trenches,
I'm affectionately known as "Rapin N. Pillagin"; I live for the thrill of

(All the various Poobahs begin to chant) "Uber, uber, uber, uber,..."

Potp: "Yes, yes, thank you. But we're entering a new era. We're
transitioning into a new economic paradigm. We're moving from an era of
scarcity where wealth was strictly limited, and the silken robes of
civility disguised the jungle-spawned-and-mean-street-honed bloodsport of
tribal cannibalism--I've often pondered the mystical similarity between
that word and our cultural holy word: Capitalism,...but I digress--and
power was captured in the arena of competitive combat from whence only two
outcomes were possible: to stand in glorious, exultant, uberVictory, or to
be defeated and crushed, your shattered remains cast down, to be torn and
profaned by the ravening mob. Ah, what a time it was.

But that is all gone now,...well, mostly,.. and no time for weeping.
Technology has brought us, inexorably, to an age of abundance, and we must
make the best of it. We have to be smart enough, and creative enough, and
courageous enough to forge for ourselves a place in the new paradigm. I
for one will not settle for the fate of the dinosaurs, the oblivion of
obsolescence. This old raptor seeks a new rapture. In an era of unrivaled
abundance, the bar has been raised. Soar with me then my fellow
carnivores. Set your sights on a new promised land. Bear witness to the
vastness of a new destiny. For you will not, as I will not, settle for
anything less than Total Galactic Domination."

(Much hooting and hollering, stomping of feet, shouts of "uber, uber,
uber,...", "I want to have your baby!" from both genders, undergarments
flying through the air, wails of ecstasy, etc.)

Potp: "Thank you, thank you.

Now, here's the plan. We'll develop productive capacity in all the major
arenas of economic activity: food, energy, land, housing, transport, etc;
prototyping and then perfecting our production systems. We'll make all
kinds of benevolent, sweet, and cooperative sounds early on so as to allay
the fears that will, at the outset, naturally arise. We will exercise
deliberate restraint and give no sign of competitive ruthlessness,
difficult as that may be for some of us. We will look scared and strained.
 In a word, we'll look weak. We'll charge full retail for our products and
services, building a nice little war chest, while at the same time
spreading rumors that the Santa Machine is buggy and over-hyped. We'll
cook the books to make it look like we're in trouble. We'll build up
massive productive capability, which we will leave idle, expaining with
much tearing of hair and an executive suicide or two, that it is a huge,
kludgy, asset-devouring boondoggle, a monument to ego and incompetent
ambition. Just the sort of story that will be irresistable to our
soon-to-be-victims ne competitors. And then, when all is in readiness, one
fine day, the sun will come up, and they will find that we have shorted
every last share of their stock. Every farthing of their net worth will be
transferred into our accounts. We will be cranking out product in vast
quantities and their entire industrial edifice will be a giant
non-performance-art museum slash scrap heap. And they will be standing in
their shit-stained guccis wondering what the fuck hit them.

(Much hooting and hollering, stomping of feet, shouts of "uber, uber,
uber,...", "I want to have your baby!" from both genders, undergarments
flying through the air, wails of ecstasy, etc.)

Potp: Yes, yes, I know, thank you. But wait. It's not over yet, and it's
not all sweetness and light. "What could be bad?" you say. Well, although
our uberDomination of the planet will be complete, our former adversaries
stripped of their now-clearly-never-was-genuine nobility (based as it was
on crass--not to mention ill-gotten--cash) and desolate, and the little
people--unwashed wretches that they are--looking upon us as gods
(squabbling happily among themselves, no doubt, the self-satisfied little
shits). Well, as pleasant as that may sound, it must also be noted that
everyone on the planet will now be fat, dumb, and happy, and embarked on a
carefree new career of self-actualization, self-enhancement, and
self-fullfilment. In short, our work will be done here, there will be no
more dragons to slay, neither in nature, nor in our fellow man. Plus, our
money will be worthless. Bottom line: we'll be broke and out of a job. Ouch!

But, not to worry my friends. Just grab your tools and your legacy of
compulsive uber-achievement, and remember those three little words: Total
Galactic Domination.

Or as the late great Carl Sagan was wont to say (Cheesy Carl Sagan voice):

"Billions and billions of stars to fuck with."


                        Best, Jeff Davis

           "Everything's hard till you know how to do it."
                                        Ray Charles

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